English Readings for Friday Evening Services

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English Readings for Friday Evening Services

The readings in this Siddur have been collected from a variety of sources. Some of them have unknown authors. If you have information as to the author of a reading or meditation, please let the leader know, so we can correct the error in the next edition.

Opening Readings 2

Readings for Candles and Wine 4

Readings for Kabbalat Shabbat 8

Readings for Shema and its Blessings 10

Readings before Amida 15

Readings before Silent Prayer 18

Readings before Torah Study 20

Readings before Mourner’s Kaddish 24

Concluding Readings 26

Meditations, Theology, Philosophy 28

Popular Inspiration 36

Havdalah 47

Opening Readings
I am a Jew because my faith demands no abdication of the mind.
I am a Jew because my faith demands all the devotion of my heart.
I am a Jew because wherever there is suffering, the Jew weeps.
I am a Jew because wherever there is despair, the Jew hopes.
I am a Jew because the message of our faith is the oldest and the newest.
I am a Jew because the promise of our faith is a universal promise.
I am a Jew because for the Jew, the world is not completed; people must complete it.
I am a Jew because for the Jew, humanity is not fully created; people must complete it.

I am a Jew because the faith of the people Israel places humanity above nations, above Judaism itself.

I am a Jew because the faith of the people Israel places above humanity, image of the divine, the Oneness of God.

You and your brother or sister share the same parents. Yet even though your parents are obviously the same people to you and your sibling, give or take a few year, pretty much the same home, same values, social milieu, how remarkable that your relationships with them are profoundly different. The rules of your respective parent-child relationships are poles apart. What you must do to be a good son or daughter is different from what your brother must do. It is like that with religious traditions too. Though we all share a common “parent,” the “rules” of how we must be faithful to that relationship vary from one person and one religion to another. Each is true and holy and proper. Indeed for one person to try to be a good child according to the rules of his brother or sister would be a disaster.

-Lawrence Kushner

Within its bounds Shabbat is one of the surest means of finding peace in the war-torn realms of the soul. It is one of the basic institutions of humanity – an idea with infinite potentiality, infinite power, infinite hope. Through the Sabbath, Judaism has succeeded in turning its greatest teachings into a day. Out of a remote world of profound thought, grand dreams, and fond hopes – all of which seem so distant, so intangible and so unrealizable – the Sabbath has forged a living reality which can be seen and tasted and felt at least once a week.

-Erich Fromm
We sit here newly gathered

Before the face of our God

Joining together this evening

To worship the Holy One

And to make holy our lives.

How shall we begin the search

To reach the sacred part

Of ourselves where rests

The essence of all that is good?

By stopping

Stopping our concern for those things

That divert us all week long…

At least for the brief moments

Of our Shabbat eve and

Opening ourselves to hear the message

O so silent, carried to us

By the still, small voice of God.

Sabbath Reflections

We have gathered here this Shabbat to worship and reflect upon the meaning of our lives, and to rediscover that wise purpose without which, our ancestors believed, no one can live.
Shabbat is a day of freedom and peace, a celebration of life and creation. It is the end of the week and its beginning. It is the moment of pause; the refilling of the empty vessel; the renewing of the spirit. It is time to rest, rejuvenate and to reflect upon the universality of life and the common goals of all humanity.
Shabbat is the celebration of the family. It brings us together not as islands unto ourselves, but as a family, a community, a nation. From this, family values are born, love is created and charity is endowed with meaning.
There are days when we seek things for ourselves and measure failure by what we do not gain. On the Sabbath we seek not to acquire but to share.
There are days when we exploit the nature as if it were a horn of plenty that can never be exhausted. On the Sabbath, we stand in wonder before the mystery of creation.
There are days when we act as if we cared nothing for the rights of others. On the Sabbath, we are reminded that justice is our duty and a better world our goal.
This is the reason we have gathered together this morning, both family and friends, to worship, celebrate and share the gifts of this Shabbat… day of wonder, day of peace.

-Author Unknown

Readings for the Blessings For Shabbat

over the Candles and Wine
These lights

are only flickering flames.

Yet flames


our uncertain steps.
Flames purify and renew,

soften and refine;

they brighten and make warm.
Flames remind us

of Sabbaths long past,

and of their beauty

that delighted our hearts.

May they inspire us

to work

for the Great Sabbath of peace.

Blessed is the match that kindles the Sabbath lights.

Blessed is the home that reflects the glow of Shabbat.

Blessed is the heart that radiates the warmth of Shabbat.

As these Shabbat candles give light to all who behold them, so may we, by our lives, give light to all who behold us. As their brightness reminds us of the generations of Israel who have kindled light, so may we, in our own day, be among those who kindle light.

-Gates of the House

May our Hearts be lifted,

our spirits refreshed,

as we light the Sabbath candles.

-Marcia Falk

It is better to light just one little candle; all you need is a tiny spark.

If we all gather hands, so the world will be free,

the wonderful dawn of a new day we’ll see,

And if everyone lights just one little candle, what a bright world this will be.

On this day

we would see the world

in a new light.

On this day

we would add new spirit

to our lives
On this day

we would taste

a new time of peace.
We would rest

from desire for gain,

ambition for things.
We would raise our eyes

to look beyond time and space

toward eternity.
O may we

come to see the world

in a new light.
As it is written:

“Let a new light shine upon Zion,

and may it be our blessing

to see its splendor.”

Blessed is the match

Blessed is the match that is consumed in kindling a flame.

Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret depths of the heart.

Blessed are the hearts that know when ‘tis honor to cease.

Blessed is the match that is consumed in kindling a flame.

Another week of work is ended;

again Shabbat brings welcome peace.

We pause from our labors

to let Shabbat give another dimension to our lives.

These Sabbath candles are symbols

of the holiness we seek.

Their brightness dispels gloom

and lights a path to faith and hope.

Their glow reminds us of the sacred bonds

that link us to our people over space and time.

Their radiance summons us

to fulfill our people’s mission:

To cast the light of freedom, justice, and peace

upon all the world.

The cup of Kiddush wine

Is our symbol of Sabbath joy:
Joy in the remembrance of Creation;

Joy in the remembrance of our Liberation;

Joy in the remembrance of the Revelation.

The cup of Kiddush wine

Is our symbol of Sabbath holiness:

Holiness conferred by God;

Holiness embodied in our Heritage;

Holiness sought in each generation.
In joy and prayerful thanksgiving,

We raise our cup of Kiddush wine:

Let us serve the Lord with gladness,

As we sanctify the Sabbath,

And bring blessing to our lives.

-H.J. Matt and B. Saul

Kabbalat Shabbat
A Psalm in Praise of the Shekhinah for Shabbat

Praise Her,

most awesome of the mighty!

Revere Her,

She is a woman of the people.

Adore Her,

She is clothed in love.

Laden with vitality,

Her lips are sweet.

Life is in Her mouth.

When we see Her,

our rejoicing becomes full.

She is glorious;

She is beautiful.

Her eyes glisten like the morning star;

He face shines like the sun.

Her hair shimmers like the golden moon.

She is a woman of the people;

with Her is their counsel.

The fate of all the living She holds in Her hands;

She protects the day and guards the night.

She opens the heavens to life,

the earth to seed and flower.

She is all women –

Virgin, Mother, Crone,

Creator and Peacemaker,

Servant and Consecrator of Wisdom.

She keeps the hearth fires bright

and heals the soul of Her people.

Power is in Her hands;

compassion is in Her heart.

Praise Her when you come upon Her name:

Tehom, Coiled Serpent Woman;

Elat Hashachan, She who Ascends with the Dawn;

Shaddai, Many-breasted Woman,

Whose milk overflows;

Achoti Calah, Sister Whole unto Herself;

Em Ham’rachemet, Mother Whose Womb Is Compassion;

Malchat Shamayim, Woman of Endless Skies;

Dayenet HaEmet, Seal of Truth;

Yehoya, Spiritwind Woman;

Elohim, SheHe in Love with Life;

Shekhinah, Beloved Friend

She is the breath of all living;

wild horses dance around Her moon.

Power is in Her hands,

love is in Her heart.

Praise Her

when you come upon Her name

singing inside you

Y’la la la la la la la la la la la la

These are the obligations without measure, whose reward, too, is without measure:

to honor mother and father;

to perform acts of love and kindness;

to attend the house of study daily;

to welcome the stranger;

to visit the sick;

to rejoice with bride and groom;

to console the bereaved;

to pray with sincerity;

to make peace when there is strife.

And the study of Torah is equal to them all, because it leads to them all.

-Gates of Prayer

Prayer is never repeated.

the quality of each day’s prayer

is unlike that of any other.

This is the inner meaning of the Mishnah’s words:

“One whose prayer is rigid

prays without supplication.”

This can be seen even in the thoughts

that distract us from true prayer;

They too are different every day.

Each day and its prayer,

each day and its distractions

-from Your Word is Fire edited by Green and Holtz

To be said to women:

A woman of valor–seek her out,

for she is to be valued above rubies.

Her husband trusts her,

and they cannot fail to prosper.

All the days of her life

she is good to him.

She opens her hands to those in need

and offers her help to the poor.

Adorned with strength and dignity,

she looks to the future with cheerful trust.

Her speech is wise,

and the law of kindness is on her lips.

Her children rise up to call her blessed,

her husband likewise praises her:

‘Many women have done well,

but you surpass them all.’

Charm is deceptive and beauty short-lived,

but a woman loyal to God has truly earned praise.

Give her honor for her work;

her life proclaims her praise.

-from Proverbs 31

To be said to men:

Blessed is the man who reveres the Lord,

who greatly delights in God’s commandments!

His descendants will be honored in the land:

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

His household prospers,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;

for the one who is gracious, compassionate, and just.

He is not afraid of evil tidings;

his mind is firm, trusting in the Lord.

His heart is steady, he will not be afraid.

He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever;

his life is exalted in honor.

-from Psalm 112

Shema and its Blessings
Ma’ariv Aravim
God, our Creator and Creator of the world, we sing Your praises in every season.

Your presence is know to us in autumn, when shimmering golden leaves catch our eye; we stand in the hushed forest and are filled with awe.

You cover us with a blanket of soft white snow, as a mother her child.

The fresh awakening of spring stirs within us a gladness. Each spring You give us rebirth; we are cleansed as the earth in a spring rain.

And summer’s full blossoming and gentle breezes is an overflowing of joy and beauty.

Ahavat Olam

Hear, O Israel, posterity of ancient sages and antecedents of future generations.

Let us pay attention to each and every one of us.

We fragment You and the world you have created, making gods of the splinters.

We devote ourselves to Art and Beauty;

we glorify Reason and Technology;

We venerate Success and Money;

we put our faith in Politics and Power;

We enshrine Love and Happiness, Charity and Justice,

Ritual and Israel.

Help us to see that you are the whole from which these were split.

In truth, there is only You.

Hear, O Israel, The Eternal One is our God, the Eternal God is One.

-Covenant of the Heart


Lord God of test tubes and blueprint

who joined molecules of dust

and shook them ‘til their name was Adam,

Who taught worms and stars how they could live together,

Appear now among the parliaments of conquerors

and give instructions to their schemes

Measure out new liberties so none shall suffer

from his father’s color or the credo of his choice;

Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream

as those who profit by postponing it pretend;

Sit at the treaty table and convey the hopes

of little people through expected straits,

and press into the final seal a sign that peace

will come for longer than posterities can see ahead,

That man unto his fellow man shall be a friend for ever.

-Norman Corwin

Shelter of Peace

Give us a place to rest, Adonai, our God,

And peace.

Help us, O Sovereign, to stand up to life.

Spread over us Your shelter of peace.

That through Your good counsel, we might be repaired.

Liberate us from the place we are

That we might fulfill the meaning of Your name.
Bring us into the shelter

In the soft, long evening shadows

Of Your truth.

For with You is true protection and safekeeping

And in Your presence is royal acceptance and gentle love.

Watch over us as we go forth.

Prepare for us as we return.

Spread over us Your shelter of peace

And over all we love

Over our Jerusalem

And Yours.

When the sun rises and the night falls,

when spring follows close on the heels of winter,
Let us remember God’s promise

that the rhythms of earth will uphold life forever.
When we sail, like Noah, on uncertain seas,

in a wooden boat no bigger than a toy;

When we fear, like Noah, that the end may come,

if not to all life, then to us,
When we look for small signs of hope,

a green leaf, or the branch of an olive tree.

Let us remember the bow that spans the retreating

rain-clouds, and the promises that God still keeps for us,

that seed time and harvest shall not cease.
Then we can give thanks to God

for the fruitful earth, our dwelling place,

for God’s blessings, bright as the rainbow

in the shining sky.

-Ruth Brin

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures, great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,

He made their tiny wings.
The tall trees in the greenwood,

The meadows where we play,

The rushes by the water

We gather every day –

He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we may tell

How great is God Almighty,

Who has made all things well.

-Cecil Francis Alexander

“Shema Yisrael” escapes my lips. My eyes closed and heart open, these words envelop and caress. Hearing my voice echoes and joined by the voices of hundreds, I praise God’s oneness and through that my own Judaism. “Shema Yisrael” escapes from my lips, and my belief in Adonai is proclaimed.

But then comes the hard part.

This was always the hardest commandment for me, and I think this was done intentionally. “V’ahavta.” And you shall love. Other commandments are a little easier. Do this. Don’t do that. But “v’ahavta?” “And you shall love?” A commandment of feeling? I don’t know about that.

My eyes open after the shema, and see the people around me.

Surrounded by dedication and passion, encompassed in a spiritual cocoon of emotive warmth, the words flow as always. “Bechol Levavch.” “With all your heart.”

Looking around, I see what it means. And it is not so hard anymore. For in this spirituality, I find myself and my mission. In this room, I find the love for which I search.

Love God with everything you have: your heart, your soul, your strength. These words I give you here and now, take them to your heart. Teach them to those who follow you. Speak of them often: at home, at work, and on the road; at the beginning of the day and at its end. Hold them like a sacred chant that whispers inside you, spilling out into song. Feel the words in you fingertips, keep them at the front of your mind, in the small space above your eyes. Let them guide your vision to rest in new places; let them soothe and disturb you. Look up occasionally; the words will appear everywhere in the place you call home.

O God,

we all stood at the mountain’s base

and we swore ourselves to your commands.

Though Moses stuttered horribly,

we all listened with utmost care

to every Torah word.

It was so good to be gone from Egypt!
But now we are slaves again,

and Mitzvahs are slow to be done.

Be patient with our outward hesitation.

We have not forgotten the Agreement;

You are not alone.

-Danny Siegel

I Shall Sing to the Lord a New Song

I, Miriam, stand at the sea

and turn

to face the desert

stretching endless and still.

My eyes are dazzled

The sky brilliant blue

Sunburnt sand unyielding white.

My hands turn to down wings.

My arms


for the sky

and I want to sing

the song rising inside me.

My mouth open

I stop.

Where are the words?

Where the melody?
In a moment of panic

My eyes go blind.

Can I take a step

Without knowing a


Will I falter?

Will I fall?

Will the ground sink away from under me?

The song still unformed –

How can I sing?

To take the first step –

To sing a new song –

Is to close one’s eyes

and dive into unknown waters.

For a moment knowing nothing risking all –

But then to discover

The waters are friendly

The ground is firm.

And the song –

the song rises again.

Out of my mouth come words lifting the wind.

And I hear

for the first

the song

that has been in my heart



even to me

–Ruth H. Sohn

How many rivers we have crossed since we crossed the Jordan:

The River of Babylon and the flooding Nile,

We passed over the Rubicon and the Rhine

the Danube and the Volga,

We sailed oceans only to cross other rivers:

the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Ganges…

And when we crossed each river, we wrote the words,

we wrote them on scrolls and in books,

We translated them into seventy languages,

and more than seventy as our rabbis instructed us,

No longer shepherds nor growers of vines and figs,

we transmuted our understanding of this Teaching,

to make it clear, distinct, in every time,

in every place, across every river.

And still we struggle, now where the words were first written and in every other land where we live to make this Torah distinct for ourselves and for Jews everywhere.

-Ruth Brin

God our creator, teach us to love freedom as we love life.

Make us understand that only when all are free can we be free.

Let none be masters and none be slaves.

Then shall we sing as our people did

when they were freed from Pharaoh’s grip:

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